Ryback is a snarling, wild-eyed beast of a man who squashes his opponents with extreme malice, leaving them for dead in the ring. He has plowed his way through WWE, disposing of many opponents along the way and as his popularity grows, he seems to be headed for superstardom in Vince McMahon’s company. But is he really ready for the next step to main-event status?
It’s a question that has been posed numerous times in the past, and to be honest my own opinion has changed nearly as often as I have written about him.
And that’s quite a lot.
It started out well for Ryback in the beginning. When we first saw the man once known as Skip Sheffield wearing the singlet and fight gloves, it did appear as though he was fairly comfortable in his new character.
He crushed his way through one handicap squash match after another, showing off his strength and intensity every time he stepped through the ropes. He seemed extremely focused, completely in the zone, and ready to impress the fans.
But then the Goldberg chants began almost as quickly as he started and before long that was the hot topic of conversation. Was he just a rip-off? Vince’s reproduction of the retired star who once reigned in WCW?
Before any of us could definitively answer that one however, Ryback came to the aid of Mick Foley backstage and locked eyes with then WWE champion CM Punk. For the first time during his run, Ryback had crossed paths with a “made man,” a top-level guy who ordinarily would have had no reason to inhabit the TV screen at the same time as the new Superstar.
When that moment occurred, everything changed for Ryback. He was suddenly seen as more of a legitimate star, a guy who could potentially be WWE’s new next big thing.
The unproven commodity was now challenging Punk for the WWE Championship, flexing his muscles on pay-per-view. He had gone from zero to hero virtually overnight and the sky appeared to be the limit for the man that Michael Cole began calling “Big Hungry.”
But then his upward momentum was ground to a screeching halt thanks to three other new stars, the trio of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, collectively known as The Shield.
Ryback had finally met his match. He was outnumbered. He was out muscled. And he was overwhelmed. His power and intensity were of no use to him, his crowd support, which had been steadily building, did him no good.
Ryback was beaten. Conquered. And he has not been the same since.
Although, Ryback was still a winner on TV. And, the fact that WWE continued to feature him at all meant that they were likely still committed to his character and helping him succeed. So, when The World’s Strongest Man came into the picture, it appeared as though perhaps Ryback would finally get a good rivalry that he could really sink his teeth into, one that he could actually win, then be put back on the right track.
But then he lost his first match against Henry at WrestleMania 29.
Is there such a thing as less than square one?
However, we all know what happened on the April 8 edition of Monday Night Raw. Ryback came to the aid of newly crowned WWE champion John Cena. He took out Mark Henry and then helped the champ to his feet. But, before you could say “super pals,” Ryback attacked John and laid him out in the ring.
It’s at this point that I could continue with the evolution of Ryback. I could tell you that he is now taking the next step in his career, that he is more than just a threat to Cena’s WWE Title, he is a credible opponent, a man who can beat John and usher in the future of the company by becoming the new WWE champion.
But there is not one word of that paragraph that I believe.
Not one word.
Of course, that’s not to say that it won’t happen. We have seen WWE do a lot more with a lot less before. And Ryback behind the scenes seems very motivated, a guy who is serious about the business and being WWE’s top star. He may actually get there, after all.
But I just cannot bring myself to care about any of that. The fact is that when it comes to Ryback, the booking for me has just been an absolute mess. Because of all the opponents that Ryback has faced in WWE, he has had only a handful of real feuds and the only one can he lay claim to actually winning was against Jinder Mahal.
I believe that when WWE creative looks at Ryback, they see a hot Superstar who is a building block for the future. He is a big, powerful talent with a marketable look and catchphrase who could potentially be a top draw one day.
However, to me, if he is being thrust into the WWE Title picture then it’s by default because there is simply no one else. He is the wild card, the guy who was not expected to heel out or turn on John, yet he now appears to be the only one with any real heat against the champ.
Honestly though, I just cannot envision Ryback taking the WWE Championship from John Cena. If WWE moves forward with this angle, it will surely be interesting, with some twists and hopefully some real character development for Ryback.
But I do not believe it will end with Ryback hoisting the 10 pounds of gold over his head. John Cena pins everybody eventually, and the WWE locker room is full of Superstars who have done the job to him in the past.
And, if he indeed challenges for the WWE Title, then Ryback’s name will very likely be added to that list.